Some games challenge you with shooting or fighting enemies, others solving puzzles or driving vehicles. Manual Samuel has you do all four, but not in the way you’d expect. It’s an adventure game that challenges you with keeping the titular protagonist breathing and moving, while also completing his day to day activities, which often get him caught up in absurd and ridiculous scenarios. It’s a fun black comedy adventure, and it does a great job at taking the mundane and small things we take for granted in video games and making them a hilarious, challenging and occasionally very frustrating game experience.
Developed by Perfectly Paranormal / Published by Curve Digital
Available on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Reviewed on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Curve Digital
Manual Samuel is about the eponymous protagonist, a young wealthy man who taking life for granted, dies after getting hit with a bottle by his angry girlfriend, coffee thrown into his face by a stranger and run over by a truck crossing the road. He lands straight in Hell, but a skateboarding streetwise Death notices his unusually high number of Shreds of Life (a valuable currency in the underworld), and returns Samuel back to Earth in exchange for them, but with one catch: all of Samuel’s actions will be manual for 24 hours.
The story is silly, funny and pretty entertaining, the video game equivalent of Weekend at Bernie’s. It’s a straightforward, slapstick-filled story that is held together by its absurdity, excellent voiceovers and colorful characters, and while it can get too silly at times, it’s entertaining stuff. Even skipping through the cinematics is a good time.
Now when it comes to playing it, Manual Samuel is as absurd as it sounds, with players controlling Samuel’s every single move, from moving each leg and arm individually and standing up straight, to breathing in and out and blinking his eyes. It’s pretty complex stuff as each action is assigned to a button, and the game forces you to micromanage every single one just to do the most mundane stuff like walking around, picking up items, getting dressed and more. Alas, that’s where the fun and comedy lies, as players stumble and struggle with doing such things, and in all honesty, it’s a good time if you don’t get frustrated too easily. Otherwise, you might find yourself struggling to juggle all the actions, but thankfully the hilarity of it all will keep players pushing forward.
Things however get more complicated as the game progresses, with players doing incredible things while being dead, such as driving a car, working and talking to people, controlling a giant robot and more. The game constantly throws curveballs into the mix in order to keep things interesting, and it mostly succeeds, providing new challenges that will keep players giggling and cursing doing things they didn’t see coming. Sometimes though, the challenges are too difficult or unforgiving, and they can easily get frustrating, especially those that amount to boss battles. These require Samuel to do a number of actions in quick succession in order to win, and the game seems to have an issue of registering rapidly pressed buttons, leading to some maddening scenarios. They can be completed of course, but only the most dedicated will come through victorious.
To add more challenge – and possibly more screaming and shouting, Manual Samuel also comes with a multiplayer option, allowing two players to split body parts and actions among themselves so see how far they can take Samuel. Playing alone can get hard enough, but playing with another will take it all to a whole new level, and it is tons of fun, especially when playing with a group or in a party. Just be prepared for it to get a little crazy towards the end, and be aware that you can’t continue alone should a partner abandon you.
Manual Samuel overall is an entertaining and unique puzzle-like experience, crafting a silly but thoroughly enjoyable tale, and featuring crazy mechanics that’ll have players swearing and laughing and cursing violently all through the experience. While it may be tedious for some, and it can also be very tricky and unforgiving at times, it’s a unique and creative game that’ll entertain, occasionally anger, and amuse those who give it a try.